Before the 2014 NCAA Final between the Connecticut Huskies and Kentucky Wildcats, UCONN senior Shabazz Napier, made headlines when he called Northwestern union ruling, “kind of great.” Napier ruffled some Connecticut lawmaker’s feathers when he said that sometimes he goes to bed “starving.” Now the NCAA has approved a plan to give college athletes carte blanche to consume as much free food and snacks as they want.
Division I student-athletes can receive unlimited meals and snacks in conjunction with their athletics participation, the Legislative Council decided Tuesday. The rule, which applies to walk-ons as well as scholarship student-athletes, is an effort to meet the nutritional needs of all student-athletes.
The provision of meals approved today is in addition to the meal plan provided as part of a full scholarship. Prior to this change, scholarship student-athletes received three meals a day or a food stipend.
Before the Championship game, Napier responded positively to questions about the Northwestern union ruling, and told reporters (by way of CNN) that he often went to bed hungry. Napier didn’t think it was fair to have to compete on an empty stomach and make all sorts of money for the college, in ticket sales and merchandise, without being compensated, or at the very least fed:
“I don’t feel student-athletes should get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but like I said, there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving,” he said.
Asked whether he felt like an employee — a key distinction cited in the labor board’s Northwestern ruling — the Huskies point guard responded, “I just feel like a student-athlete, and sometimes, like I said, there’s hungry nights and I’m not able to eat and I still got to play up to my capabilities…When you see your jersey getting sold — it may not have your last name on it — but when you see your jersey getting sold and things like that, you feel like you want something in return.”
Here’s video of Napier answering the question so nothing is lost in the transcription:
Bob Knight believes the NBA has raped college basketball, but it’s the student athletes who are being taken advantage of in a sort of indentured servitude with little compensation except an education that’s overpriced anyway.
Quick tangent while I get on my soapbox:
During a recent conversation about this with friends, someone countered my argument for college pay with the understanding that most big-time college athletes get money on the side from boosters and “friends of the program.” But counting on corruption to help these kids get through the rigors of school intertwined with big-time athletics isn’t a sufficient response to the problem, and pay offs don’t instill the values most people want in their children — athlete or not.
At least the NCAA is doing something, but it’s a little late for Shabazz, who graduates this spring.
Are unlimited meals a fair exchange after all the money big-time student-athletes bring in for schools?
Follow Spencer on Twitter at @SpencerTyrel.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.